In our life, leftovers are an essential part of survival. Hub works 12-hour shifts, but add in drive time and maybe a workout before or after shift, and he’s easily gone for 13-14 hours at a time. Leaving the energy campus to go grab food isn’t really an option, so we have to pack meals up for him.
I personally am not a huge fan of leftover meals, so the fact that Hub LOVES a good leftover is just more proof that we were a match made in Heaven. Nothing goes to waste in this house.
So if you’re like us, and you need some easy, go-to ideas for tasty, packable recipes, I hope you enjoy this post. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel right now with all of my own recipes, I’ve rounded up some awesome dishes from fellow bloggers who already have the whole food-blogging-thing in the bag. I trust they won’t lead you astray.
I’m thinking this topic will be revisited again in the future, so let me know if you find this helpful!
Oh…and I’m sharing my daily menu themes here, too. Yes. I really am that dorky.
When I initially suggested this start-of-the-week theme to Hub, I think the conversation went a little something like this…
Me: “Babe, I think we should start doing Meatless Mondays for dinner.”
Hub: “Ummmmm…no. I don’t like that idea.”
Me: “It’ll be great! We’ll save money and get some extra veggies in our diet!”
Hub: “Nope. I like meat.”
Truth. The man is, in fact, a proud and happy carnivore. He is also more than a little obsessed with protein—insert Arnold Schwarzenegger accent—GOT TO FEED THAH MAHSSULS.
So we compromised. Rather than using Mondays to try new vegetarian recipes, we’ve opted for a more protein-packed lacto-ovo-pescatarian approach (yes, that’s a thing), allowing dairy, eggs, fish and other seafood into our Monday meals.
Hearty salads usually grace the menu board for this theme, so this recipe for Shrimp Avocado Salad from Natasha’s Kitchen fits the bill. It’s loaded with colorful veggies and protein for “thah mahssuls.” And, if you want to bump up the nutrition even more, add some drained and rinsed, canned black beans to the mix.
If you think you’re going to eat the whole recipe in one sitting, go ahead and serve it all up together in big beautiful bowl like Natasha does. But if it’s going to be eaten as leftovers…
Toss the avocado in some lemon juice or sprinkle with Ball Fruit-Fresh before packing to slow its oxidation (browning) process.
Keep the toppings and dressing separate from the lettuce.
- We usually just pack the toppings in one container, lettuce in another, dressing in another. It’s more dishes but everything will taste so much fresher that way.
- OR if you’re kinda fancy, you can layer everything in a big mason jar (protein on bottom, heavier veggies next, lettuce on top), dressing in a little container on the side.
And one more nitpicky thing…I can’t stand tomatoes that have been refrigerated. It instantly ruins their flavor. So I buy cherry or grape tomatoes, wash them and send them with Hub in a little Ziploc bag to be kept OUT of the fridge at work. Personal preference. You do what you do.
**NO COOK OPTION**
If you’re extra short on time or just really don’t want to dirty a skillet, you could easily substitute packaged tuna for the shrimp. I really like this Starkist Herb and Garlic tuna in the pouch. I buy mine from Target and always keep a stash of pouches in our fridge.
Unlike Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday was easy to sell to my crew. Of course, as you’ll notice from my suggested recipe here, I don’t limit this night to strictly traditional tacos. This theme includes burritos, enchiladas, fajitas, gyros (basically Greek tacos), etc. I like variety.
This recipe for Sheet Pan Fajitas from Half Baked Harvest is awesome. Easy, fast, healthy, colorful, filling—checkmarks all around. Chicken, steak, pork or any combination will work. You can use flour tortillas, corn tortillas, or if you’re watching carbs, just use a big lettuce leaf to hold all the goods.
This one is also easy to pack up. Just keep your tortillas or lettuce leafs separate. If you want cold toppings like cheese, sour cream, salsa or other fresh veggies, you would pack those separate, too.
Mid-week I try to inject a little global flair into our culinary repertoire. My kids have typical pre-schooler palettes—if they had it their way they’d live on pizza and waffles—but I refuse to raise picky eaters, so they are required to at least TRY two bites of every food served to them. If absolutely necessary, I’ll let them add a topping or condiment of their choice (hello, cheese and ketchup).
So on Wednesdays we try new things. I’ve dabbled in Indian cuisine and explored Scandinavian fare. Sometimes we like it and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes I can’t find or pronounce the ingredients listed in a recipe so I substitute something more familiar to us.
This recipe for 30-Minute Mongolian Beef Stir Fry from Life Made Simple is fast and family-friendly. I take it easy on the chili flakes for the littles, and if I’m short on time I’ll just use a bag of frozen stir-fry veggies instead of chopping up the fresh stuff. Uncle Ben’s Jasmine Ready Rice is my favorite accompaniment for this dish, or if you’re looking for bonus nutrition points, served up with quinoa.
This one is easy to take to go—just throw it all in a container to be reheated later!
On Thursdays, anything goes. If all the leftovers haven’t been finished yet, we’ll work through those. Otherwise, I just whip up with whatever toots my whistle that night.
This recipe for Roasted Pork Chops with Brussel Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes from Taste of the South is my kind of meal…ONE SKILLET! Of course, you’ll also need to dirty a knife and cutting board, but otherwise, cleanup is pretty easy. I love cooking in cast iron…something about it just makes food taste like it was made with extra love.
- Note: To “wash” a cast iron skillet, just sprinkle in some coarse salt, crunch up some aluminum foil into a ball, add a wee bit of super hot water, scrub the surface, and rinse. I never use soap on my cast iron skillet.
Don’t think you like brussel sprouts? Trust me and give ‘em another chance in this dish. These little fellas might just rock your world once you discover how to cook and season them correctly. And they are so good for you! Cut them up into halves or quarters before tossing into your skillet so the flat surfaces can get richly caramelized. That’s the real game changer.
This is another recipe that’s super easy to pack up. Just throw it all into your to-go container to be reheated later.
That’s right. At the end of the workweek I take a break from my alliterative menu themes because Pizza is amazing and deserves a weekly dedication even if it doesn’t fit into my daily play on words.
We are a second-generation Friday Pizza Night family. My parents started the tradition and now it lives on in my home.
I’ll be honest with you, we usually let Friday night be our “cheat meal” and just order a pizza for pick-up from our favorite little Italian restaurant (Girolamo’s). But since this is a healthy recipe roundup, I’d like to share this super-speedy recipe for Flat Out Pizza from No Thanks to Cake.
Flat Out wraps make a sturdy, crispy crust while keeping calories in check. They also offer up a good dose of protein and fiber. For toppings, I like everything Kelly uses in her recipe, except the pepperjack slices…I prefer a mozzarella or goat cheese. I would also suggest lining your baking pan with parchment paper (NOT wax paper! Hub made that mistake once). The parchment helps the bottom of the crust get nice and toasty. You could also use your grill to cook the pizza. Just keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t burn.
Hub loves a sandwich (aka “sammy”). If I stack some meat and cheese between two slices of bread for him, I’m a hero. Just like that.
So Saturday is his day. And this recipe for Turkey and Tomato Panini from Spache the Spatula makes him a happy camper. It’s fast, simple and super satisfying.
I agree with Rach’s suggestion about using Dave’s Killer Bread – Thin Sliced. Bread isn’t always bad. Dave’s is a good choice. You could also use Ezekiel bread, found in the freezer section at the grocery store.If you don’t have a Panini press (like me), a George Foreman grill or something similar works perfectly. You could also use a regular skillet on the stove. Just press down on the sandwich with the back of a spatula while toasting each side.
Serve this up with a cool, crisp salad or some grilled veggies and you’ll have a delicious meal ready in a flash.
I mentioned parchment paper for the pizza recipe…that stuff is also great for packing up sandwiches for leftovers. Wrap your sandwich up in parchment before putting in a sealed to-go container to help keep it crunchy.
Hub loves sandwiches and I love soup. So Sunday is my day!
Soups are easy to make in a crockpot, which fits right into our busy weekend schedules.
This recipe for Slow Cooker Sausage and Kale Soup from A Cedar Spoon is both hearty and healthy. Plus, soup is one of the very best leftover foods in my book.
Julia’s recipe is perfect just as she has it posted, but since this is my blog, I’ll share some minor adjustments I make for my family’s personal preferences.
- Omit the celery (cooked celery is one of the only foods Hub doesn’t like)
- Add 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1” pieces (adds extra color and sweetness)
- Sear the sliced sausage in a skillet to caramelize the surfaces and render out some fat before adding to the crock pot (not necessary, but browning the meat adds extra texture and flavor)
- For extra stick-to-your-ribs goodness, I’ll add 2-3 medium-sized red potatoes, diced
- 15 minutes before serving, add 1 can of petite diced tomatoes (drained) and 1 fresh zucchini (diced) to the pot.
** Make sure that your kale has been thoroughly washed before you toss it in with everything else!
Yee Haw! Now that, my friends, is one heck of a recipe roundup! I hope you’ll give these recipes a try and let me know what you think!!!
Thanks for stopping by!